There was a touch of Deja Vu about yesterday’s game in the sense that another team had come to the Grove to defend and frustrate Arsenal and for 83 minutes managerless Wigan did just that. We had some chances but to their credit Wigan defended very well, made some important last gasp challenges and with the game heading into the final stages it did look, despite all our pressure, that we might not break them down.
But for the second league game running up stepped William Gallas to make the difference. He came forward from the back to get involved and when the ball came to Bacary Sagna on the right Gallas made his way to near the post to score the opening goal with a fantastic header. Regular readers will know I had my doubts about Gallas and his appointment as captain at the start of the season but he really is doing the business at the moment. Fair play to him.
The second goal came when Wigan pressed forward and a quick break out saw Bendtner carry the ball forward and play a perfect pass to Tomas Rosicky whose shot went in off the far post. 2-0 and game over. One moment that might have changed this game was when we had a corner not long before the opening goal and pushing for a score we left ourselves a bit exposed at the back. Wigan had a two on one situation but Kolo Toure came flying back from their box to intercept the pass from the right and clear the danger. That, to me, typifies what this team is about. They’re willing to do the dirty work too – not everybody would have run at a full sprint to get back and help out there at that late stage of the game.
We obviously missed the craft of Cesc and Hleb and while Diarra and Denilson did pretty well in midfield we lacked the edge that the Flamini – Cesc partnership brings. We saw Robin van Persie waiting in the wings on the TV coverage and we could do with him back sooner rather than later too, but that’s not to criticise anyone. How can you when we’re top of the league, three points clear of United and with a game in hand?
Afterwards the manager praised Gallas, saying:
It was a great header. He smells where you have to be in the box on set pieces or even in the open game. I think he is a forgotten centre-forward, because he is always in the right place in the box.
And there’s no question that he’s made the difference in the last two games. It’s still early days but as well as being very vocal – using his experience to provide authority in the side – he is leading by example on the pitch. When players see their captain steadfastly refusing to lose a game it makes them respond similarly. I think we have to give enormous credit to Arsene for spotting something in Gallas that not many of us could see and the manager does have a knack of creating teams with a fantastic spirit. What is also interesting is that of the 29 league goals we’ve scored this season 15 of them have come in the final quarter of matches. That’s a team with not just great fitness but great character.
So, a good win to get ourselves back on track and to build momentum ahead of what is going to be an incredibly busy and challenging give weeks. The only slight black spot was seeing Theo Walcott stretchered off after a crude challenge by Emile Heskey. He could have seen red for that but in one way it’s good he didn’t as Wigan would have been even more defensive. Theo should be all right though, according to the boss after the game, so that’s a relief. We’re going to need as many bodies fit and ready for action as possible in the weeks ahead.
Yesterday’s other results were decent enough for us. United lost to an Anelka goal at Bolton and Tevez provided a comedy miss. Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Derby was ‘marred’ by Michael Essien’s red card which means he misses the game against us in a couple of weeks time (and once again Chelsea’s players showed they think they’re above the law when they surrounded the referee after the incident). Meanwhile Liverpool keep on winning games and, more importantly, not losing games. They’re still unbeaten in the league this season and despite all the hoo-ha surrounding Benitez and what appears to be an air of trouble around the place they’re not a team we should be taking our eyes off because they are still contenders, in my opinion.
Right, I have to go eat breakfast then go play football. Until tomorrow, have a good Sunday.